Probably one of the best things I have ingested on this trip so far has been the Cha Ca from the very famous CHA CA LA VONG restaurant (listen, it deserves the caps). As
the name suggests, and as with many restaurants in Vietnam, this fine centenarian of an eating establishment serves only one dish, and does so damn well. It's perfect for all those days of indecision. Pay no attention to all the naysayers and critics -- this dish of multi-layered fragrant goodness still haunts my mind, body and soul. I just can't seem to shake the blissful food memories from inside my tortured head.
I nearly couldn't find CHA CA LA VONG after getting lost wandering around the winding streets of the Old Quarter. Of course, my hunger-inspired determination of steel prevailed and I practically collapsed onto CHA CA street and into the restaurant out of the pure joy of discovery. I escorted myself up some rickety old staircases and plopped down on a solitary table.
Not long after I sat down, a waitress adorned my empty table with a sense of mechanical perfection. To accompany the dish with, she set down sides of fish sauce with lemon and pimento pepper, roasted peanuts, mint, cilantro dill, and spring onions and a big plate of bun, or vermicelli.
Next this magician of a waiter came over to my table and set down a steaming hot saucepan on coals and began to perform some crazy magic tricks.
Here he is sauteeing the catfish in hot oil with tumeric, scallions, and peanuts as I sit behind the camera with saliva dribbling down my chin.
The intense curry-yellow coloring of the fish comes from the tumeric seasoning.
While it's still tongue-burning hot, you mix the fish with the bun and accessories in a little soup bowl. You then allow this blissful combination of flavors, textures and colors warm your already overheated body. You enjoy every second of it until the entire dish (for two?) is gone. Ahh the sweet days of old.